Vigorous US lobbying reportedly reversed India PC import license scheme

Washington was most displeased and New Delhi knew it made a mistake

India was subjected to intense US lobbying after suddenly imposing a requirement that computer importers obtain a license, according to a news report on Thursday.

India's regulation was announced in August 2023 without any warning and covered laptops, tablets, personal computers, and servers.

Samsung and Apple halted shipments. Then the government paused the requirement.

Trade orgs quickly sought the sympathies of high-level officials like US secretary of commerce Gina Raimondo and trade ambassador Katherine Tai, and argued that the policy violated World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and "could significantly disrupt trade, hamper efforts to more closely integrate India into global supply chains, and harm businesses and consumers in both countries."

Eventually Sunil Barthwal, secretary in the Indian ministry of commerce, exempted laptops and promised to revise the scheme to reflect an intention to monitor imports – not make them harder to achieve.

But according to emails reviewed by Reuters, the powers that be in Washington were not happy with the initial mandate, and embarked on a fairly aggressive lobbying campaign to unwind it.

Shortly after the trade letter was released, Tai reportedly met Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal and expressed the US desire to have the policy rescinded.

Her talking points, on documents related to the meeting, reportedly included how India's sudden changes to policy made US orgs hesitant to engage in future.

Meanwhile a new Delhi-based US trade diplomat reportedly confided in his colleagues at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that India's IT ministry understood that the country had "screwed up" and was being "hammered" by American companies.

According to emails from State Department official Timothy Wiley to colleagues, the moves were seen as "highly protectionist" and "out of sync" with India's trade progress.

Indian government officials were advised to stick to the official line:

The (Indian) government has the right, and the responsibility, to design a trade policy that is responsive to the needs of the people of India.

Wiley's emails also reveal that some US companies that had lobbied inside their organizations for greater manufacturing presence in India were "embarrassed by this unexpected measure."

Indian officials told Reuters New Delhi did not reverse the policy due to US pressure, but rather realized local manufacturing of laptops and tablets was not significant at this stage and the policy was therefore harmful.

Whatever the final straw that caused the reversal, it's clear that the USTR deeply disapproved and took action to have it changed. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like